Ambassador of Romania to France
STABILIZING THE BALKANS THROUGH EU ENLARGEMENT:
A ROMANIAN VIEW
Opening Address in Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar "EU Enlargement - First and Second Wave", PARIS, 14 - 15 October 1999
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Audience,
I am honoured to be here today and to address you on an issue of particular interest to both my country and the region to which we belong, namely stabilizing the Balkans.
Needless to say that what I will present you today is only a "Romanian View", namely my personal view, which is not necessarily the view of my government.
When we speak about the Balkans we speak about the region of South-Eastern Europe, that is to say a part of the European Continent. So if there is a state of destabilization in the Balkans, this should be a concern to the whole of Europe.
To answer the question how to promote stability in the Balkans, one should first ask the question where in the Balkans does instability reign and why? And afterwards we may ask ourselves what kind of relation, interactivity may exist between the quest for peace and stability in the Balkans and the enlargement of the EU.
The initiative called Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe was launched by the EU in the wake of the Kosovo conflict which took place on a part of the territory of the former Yugoslav Federation. But the Kosovo conflict was not the first one, during this decade, on the territory of former Yugoslavia. First we had the conflict in Croatia, then in Bosnia. As Richard Holbrooke wrote last month, the military struggles of Bosnia and Kosovo are most properly considered as a single historical event divided into two theatres of operations. And both have been located on the territory of former Yugoslavia, a federation of republics which exploded and broke into pieces when the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe collapsed, almost a decade ago. And the communist regimes collapsed in all but one country: the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia. And that country started wars with the neighbouring countries with the aim of uniting all the territories inhabited by Serbian ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities. After failing in Croatia, then in Bosnia, Belgrade started a process of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, inhabited by people of Albanian ethnic origin and of Moslem faith. All these events opened old wounds and revived deep-rooted mistrust, rivalries and hatred among Balkan ethnic groups and nations. Bosnia and Kosovo are only two epitomes of the never-ending Balkan ferment. It is true that the region is the object of a whole series of political clichés, such as the ill-fated 'powder keg'. The risk is that sometime mental clichés turn into reality.
It appears from what I already said that the Balkan region is not a homogenous one, when we consider it from a political point of view, including the social, economic and military stability of the constituent countries. We have, on the on hand, countries like Turkey and Greece, which already belong to the Euro-Atlantic and European structures. On the other hand, we have Bulgaria and Romania, which are candidates to both these organizations. And we have Albania and the successor states of former Yugoslavia. Serbia is a case in itself, the place where all these troubles have started.
When the political upheaval took place in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989-1991, all Balkan countries were, with the exception of Turkey and Greece, in a similar political and economic situation.
Why did these countries, in the meantime, evolve on different paths? Why some of them took the road of democracy while others took the opposite one? To answer these questions and many others may need hours. For me, as a diplomat and a lawyer, the answer is simple. All this occurred because, when faced with blatant disregard of the fundamental principle enshrined in the international and European documents, the international community, its organizations, were not capable to act, because they do not have the necessary instruments to enforce the rules governing state behaviour. Neither the European Union nor the OSCE do have the necessary means designed to ensure respect of common norms and the UN Security Council is the hostage of the veto right of some of its permanent members. Events in Bosnia and Kosovo illustrate the fact that only NATO is equipped with procedures and means for stopping aggression or preventing barbarity and genocide.
The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe aims at strengthening the countries from this region in their efforts to foster peace, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity, in order to achieve stability in the whole region.
My country, Romania, is among those countries in the region which strongly believe that the implementation of this process will facilitate their objective to integrate Euro-Atlantic structures and the European Union. Certainly, the Stability Pact process and the EU enlargement are separate processes, but when the same country is considered, we are entitled to expect that by achieving the objectives of the Stability Pact, the countries in the region will be drawn closer to the perspective of their full integration into EU structures. This perspective is very clear for Romania and for Bulgaria, since both have concluded association agreements with the EU and are already included in the enlargement process.
But the core problem in the Balkan equation are the so-called 'Western Balkans'. In this respect, the EU undertook, on the basis of the Vienna European Council conclusions, to prepare a 'Common Strategy towards the Western Balkans'. According to the Stability Pact (Paragr. 200), a new kind of contractual relationship will be established between each of the countries of that part of the Balkans, taking fully into account the individual situation of each such country with the perspective to EU membership. Having this in mind, we may assume that, after achieving the objectives of the Security Pact, these countries will be included as the third wave of the enlargement process.
From what I have already said, it is clear, in my view, that stabilizing the Balkans means, first of all, stabilizing the Western Balkans by solving the existing political problems that have generated the recent conflicts, by normalizing the relations between the countries in the region.
As it is rightly said in the Stability Pact, a settlement of the Kosovo conflict is critical for fully reaching the objectives of the Pact, namely a permanent, long term arrangement ensuring a future of peace and inter-ethnic harmony, without fear of the resurgence of war. My firm belief is that such a perspective can be envisaged only if Kosovo is kept part of the Republic of Serbia, and is given a statute of wide autonomy, comprizing all fields of political, economic, cultural and social life. But the Kosovo problem cannot be solved before seeing installed in Belgrade a genuine democratic government. And, in its turn, such a government can be brought about only as a result of a mature democratic political process, based on free and fair elections, grounded in the rule of law and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Only such a democratic government could respect the rights of national minorities, respect international commitments and the principle of the inviolability of state boundaries.
But is the Serbian society mature enough to undertake such a task? Are the political forces opposing the regime of Milosevic organized and enough united for winning the power in Belgrade?
These questions and other similar are still to be answered by events ahead of us.
Even if the problems of Kosovo and of democratizing Serbia are solved, there remains in the Balkan region a strong potential of conflict still to be overcome. Such a potential of conflict exists within the former Yugoslav republics, especially Bosnia and Macedonia, as well as between these countries and some of the neighbouring ones.
In order to create peaceful and good-neighbourly relations in the region, the Stability Pact envisages several steps and methods. This includes concluding and implementing among these countries multilateral and bilateral agreements and fostering economic co-operation in the region and between the region and the rest of Europe, and the world, including free trade areas. Progress in developing regional co-operation is included among the important elements in evaluating the merits of each country in the perspective of the EU membership. Such a co-operative exercise has been already practised in various ways, through a whole range of co-operation structures and initiatives, such as the Southern-Eastern European Co-operation Initiative (SECI), the South-Eastern European Process (SEECP), the Royaumont Process and the Black Sea Economic Co-operation (BSEC). But, I must confess, what all these initiatives have produced until now is far behind our expectations.
It is quiet obvious that work in the Stability Pact should take into account the diversity of the situation of participants. Democratic principles and values have taken root and are already actively promoted by many countries in the region. The area of potential conflict, namely the Western Balkans, is surrounded by a chain of states forming an area of relative stability. They are Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovenia. the problem now is how to link the Western Balkans to this area of stability and how to create a regional structure, a mechanism for bringing the Balkans closer to the united Europe. In order to achieve this objective, it is essential that all countries forming this belt of stability join both EU and NATO. That is why I think it is very important to see Slovenia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria admitted into these political and economic Euro-Atlantic structures. The tragic events that we have recently witnessed in the western Balkans prove the pertinence of the North-Atlantic Alliance's policy of keeping its doors open for all those which, like Romania, share its values. As recent developments in Kosovo have demonstrated, it is more likely that, from a NATO point of view, countries that are placed in a geographic proximity to troubled areas that generate security risks can play an important part in attempting to prevent conflicts from spreading. Romania not only endorsed NATO's military option in Kosovo, but also supported effectively NATO and EU goals and actions, despite the costs involved. it is an undisputed fact that observing the sanctions regime instituted by EU against Serbia, a heavy burden is placed to the entire economy of Romania. The blockage of navigation on the Danube, to give only one example, is a cause of serious disruptions in our foreign trade, with spillover effects throughout the country's economy.
Fostering stability in the Balkan region means to bring about inter-ethnic harmony within national societies and to promote reconciliation between neighbouring nations. Six years ago, the plan for Stability in Europe -'the Balladur Plan'- was launched. It included, inter alia, the objective of concluding between the countries concerned political treaties in which two main issues should have been dealt with. First, solving the territorial or boundary disputes by affirming the principle of the inviolability of recognised borders, and second, the acceptance of international and European standards for protecting national minorities. To my knowledge, the Baltic states, as well as Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania took advantage of this political initiative and concluded such treaties with the neighbouring countries. These treaties created a model for solving problems of the kind the countries of the Western Balkans are now facing.
Let me tell you more about my country's experience in solving problems of this kind with its neighbours.
The Romanian-Hungarian relations after the signature, on September 16, 1996, of the Treaty of understanding, co-operation and good neighbourliness, evolved in the spirit of an active partnership. The two countries undertook to respect the inviolability of the existing state border and to implement the most advanced European standards for protecting national minorities. A joint intergovernmental committee for monitoring this treaty was created and is well functioning. The Hungarian minority in Romania (roughly 7% of the total population) is enjoying all the rights enabling it to preserve its national, linguistic, cultural and religious identity. The Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania is now represented in Parliament and takes part in the public administration, at all levels, being part of the government coalition since 1996.
The relations between Romania and Ukraine developed on the same lines after the signature of the similar bilateral political treaty, on June 2, 1997.
Treaties of good neighbourly relations and co-operation have been concluded by my country with Bulgaria already in 1991, and with Yugoslavia in 1996.
My country's relations with the Republic of Moldova are warm and cordial, Romania being the first country to officially recognize this new state when its independence was proclaimed on August 27, 1991. We are determined to finalize negotiations on the Political Treaty with the Republic of Moldova by the end of this year.
The problems the countries of the Western Balkans are now facing are, if not identical, similar to those we, Romanians, solved by concluded political treaties with Hungary and Ukraine. We, too, had to overcome obstacles linked to recognizing the existing state borders and the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. We, too, had to start a process of historical reconciliation with the neighbouring nations.
By concluding the political treaties with Hungry and Ukraine, Romania passed a double test:
* it proved its willingness to accept binding, and most advanced European prescriptions for protecting national minorities, be they Hungarians of Romania or Romanians of Ukraine;
* Romania proved its readiness to accept the principle according to which the
present state borders are inviolable, and this:
-irrespective of the political and historical circumstances prevailing when such borders have been established;
- whatever may be the legal foundations for such borders and
- whatever have been the territorial losses and gains for the countries concerned.
The treaties of good neighbourliness and co-operation concluded by Romania have been the starting point for processes leading to reconciliation with its neighbours. But the reconciliation at the level of political factors is not enough. It should be sustained, followed, by a true reconciliation at the level of the people.
To make peace, to reconcile yourself with neighbouring peoples, with the national minorities, means to start making peace with yourself, namely acting for reconciliation within each nation. In the inter-ethnic relations, this means to get free from nationalistic and racial prejudices, to demote the psychological 'Maginot defence lines', built, for decades and centuries, by joint efforts of several generations of statesmen, diplomats, historians, military men, journalists and lawyers, namely all those people who made or described the history of the European nations during the last two centuries. And this history was, in many respects, wrongly done and described even worse. To give an example, it suffices to remind you about the myth of Kosovo as the birthplace of the Serbian nation.
As for the common future of the united Europe, much will depend on the spirit in which the young generation will be brought up, the generation on whose shoulders will lay tomorrow the destinies of nations and the European construction.
In order to bring about peace and stability in the Balkans, the peoples of that region, and we all, should stop trying to establish social and political hierarchies, claiming an invented superiority for an ethnic group, a civilization, a language or a culture.
On the other hand, we all in Europe should cease thinking or imagining that by revising, changing borders, the sources of disputes are eliminated like in a magic trick. The history of this century proves that attempts of this kind have failed.
We should also try to convince people in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo that there is no major human imperative asking that state borders should coincide with the inter-ethnic or linguistic borders, particularly where such lines of separation or delimitation are non-existent or can hardly be drawn. They should stop imagining that one could correct or change the demographic realities, that are the result of historical evolution spanning an entire millennium, or that the geopolitical realities of today may be erased by sword and massacre and ethnic cleansing.
The process of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe has not yet started. There are still uncertainties and hesitations. The action of diplomats in conference rooms is easier than the action in the field to rebuild bridges, hospitals and homes. It is even more difficult to bring at the same table people who are still decided to kill each other. To my view, the comprehensive approach to security and stability in the region requires also continued efforts in implementing all commitments in the economic dimension. Security will be always fragile if democracy and human rights are not accompanied by sustainable economic and social development, by measures to alleviate poverty and to ensure a dignified life for all the peoples of the region.
The Stability Pact provides a meaningful and comprehensive framework for co-operation aimed at preparing peoples and countries for living together and behaving according to the precepts of the democratic Europe. We, consequently, are entitled to imagine the EU integration process of the countries of South-Eastern Europe.
In this part of Europe, historical memories of partition and abandonment still feature prominently in contemporary thinking. It would be difficult for this region to develop more hope and confidence without being firmly anchored to the stable, well established democratic organizations of the West.
Developments in Kosovo and other parts of the Western Balkans made us strongly believe that the problem of achieving European unity is a global one, that it cannot be solved by establishing priorities and separating regions. Mistakes have been made since the outbreak of the Yugoslav crisis, in 1991. One should now avoid penalizing countries because of the mere fact that they are located in the neighbourhood of the conflict area. I am confident the opposite approach shall prevail, because the authors of the Pact earnestly strive for the goals proclaimed therein.
I am confident the next EU summit in Helsinki will endorse one of the implicit objectives of the Stability Pact, namely to give a decisive impulse to he process of European integration of South Eastern European countries.